Calvin Coolidge photo

Excerpts of the President's News Conference

August 21, 1923

I have a number of interesting inquiries here and one of the first is relative to the reports of observers returning from Europe, whether they point to the necessity of any change in the American attitude toward European affairs. So far as I get any information from there, it doesn't point to the necessity of any change. Those returning confirm the wisdom of the attitude that has been maintained since I have known about things in Washington. They realize the difficulties over there, perhaps more acutely by reason of immediate contact with them than we can here, and I think they can see that there isn't anything that America can do at the present time other than proceed with the course that it has mapped out.

* * * * * * *

An inquiry about the attitude towards the release of so-called political prisoners. I should be very sorry to see the United States holding anyone in confinement on account of any opinion that that person might hold. It is a fundamental tenet of our institutions that people have a right to believe what they want to believe and hold such opinions as they want to hold without having to answer to anyone for their private opinion. On the other hand, when persons holding opinions, whatever they may be, undertake to go out and influence others to commit acts that are contrary to the law of the land, why then, of course, they come within the purview of the law of inciting riot or advising the commitment of crime, or conspiracy, well-recognized criminal actions not at all related to the holding of ideas. When that has been the case, and especially in time of war when there has been any overt act against the administration of the Government, then people who engage in that activity become fit subjects for punishment. I recognize that we have allowed their punishment for some time and I shall do everything I can to extend a reasonable clemency on the part of the Government.

* * * * * * *

An inquiry about Mexico. A report has been made by the two Commissioners, Mr. Warren and Mr. Payne. That is in the hands of the State Department being digested and considered. When that work is finished a report will undoubtedly be sent to me with recommendations as to what attitude ought to be adopted toward the provisions of the report and the recommendations that are in it. After that has been determined, should it then be possible to resume relationship with Mexico, I think the procedure would be the appointment of a charge d'affaires. Sometime later the question would be taken up of the appointment of an Ambassador to represent us and, of course, the reception of an Ambassador here to represent Mexico. Now I don't want to be asked about the details. Those you get more properly from the State Department. Nor do I know just when they will have finished their study of the report and their digest of it, so that they will bring their recommendations to me. But I think very shortly.

Source: "The Talkative President: The Off-the-Record Press Conferences of Calvin Coolidge". eds. Howard H. Quint & Robert H. Ferrell. The University Massachusetts Press. 1964.

APP Note: This was the first Coolidge news conference.

Calvin Coolidge, Excerpts of the President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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